It doesn’t take advanced knowledge of statistics to figure out that, if every parent thinks his or her children are above average, close to half of them are wrong. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any parent that, despite their kids’ talking early or producing amazing art or asking questions you can’t answer or what-have-you, their kids are not necessarily gifted.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it very often does anyway. We live in the age of helicopter parents and grade inflation, because so many parents find it inconceivable that anyone else’s kid could be smarter than theirs. This is especially true, I suspect, of geeks, because one of the things that makes someone a geek is that they know that they’re smart. If you’re smart, you may think, your kids must be at least as smart as you, and you therefore feel like a failure if anything happens to imply that they’re not—even if the inference you’re making is based entirely on emotion.
There was a very interesting article from CNN and Parenting.com that made me think hard about my own kids and how my wife and I have been raising them. My son, who’s between 7 and 8 years old, has been showing a lot of the signs listed in the article as what most people think of as "gifted." This has become extremely important to us recently, because he’s about to start second grade, and where we live the Gifted & Talented (G/T) Program starts in third grade; consequently, he will be tested for the program this coming school year. It’s been especially important to me, because I went through the same program in the same school system when I was a kid.
As I read the article, though, I realized the author was right: It doesn’t matter if my son (or my daughter, in a few years) is officially deemed "gifted." All that matters is that my kids get the best education we can provide for them. Based on his experience in kindergarten and first grade, I’m certain my son will do better in the G/T classes, and that is really the only reason that matters for my wife and me to push hard to get him into the program.
It’s hard to pull back and look at the situation objectively, because there are few issues more subjective than what’s good for your children. Along with being a good parent comes the completely natural feeling that your kids are better than everyone else’s kids because, well, they’re your kids. It mystifies and sometimes angers us when other people can’t see how terrific our kids are.
But you have to pull back, because the odds are your kid isn’t the next William Shakespeare, Marie Curie, or Leonardo da Vinci. Whether or not your kids get fitted with the label "gifted" doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you do what you need to do to get your kids the very best education possible for your kids and for their specific needs. That may or may not be the same education all the other kids are getting, or your next-door neighbor’s kids are getting, and that’s all right. If you do what needs to be done to get your kids the best education possible, you’ve done your job well. If they turn out to be the next Albert Einstein, that’ll be great. They probably won’t, but just tell yourself that that’s OK, because nearly every other kid won’t turn out to be the next Einstein, either.